Kadaga warns MPs about fraudulent schemes

By Alice Lubwama

The Speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga has warned Members of Parliament and the public at large against investing in Ponzi and Pyramid schemes saying that they risk being defrauded of their money.

In her communication to the house this afternoon as parliament returns from recess, Kadaga said that the schemes are a form of fraud that is leaving unsuspecting Ugandans in debt and deprivation despite promising high rates of return with little risk to investors.

Kadaga says a number of people who have fallen victim to the fraudulent schemes have petitioned her office seeking for help.

She also expresses concern over the delay by government to take action against the unscrupulous schemes.

Bank of Uganda losses worry MPs

By Edwin Muhumuza

The parliamentary Finance committee has expressed concern as to why Bank of Uganda is making losses , a trend that is affecting the national reserves.

The committee heard that the central bank had invested Uganda’s reserves in Europe ,a move which did not yield any profits following the negative interest rates.

The revelation was made by officials led by Dr. Adam Mugume, Executive Director of Research, at Bank of Uganda while appearing before legislators to account for another 450bn shillings for re-capitalization.

Mugume told the committee that currently Uganda’s reserves have been invested in the United states of America,whose market offers an interest rate of 2%.

This though did not go well with members of the committee chaired by Hon.Paul Musasizi ,Member of Parliament, Rubanda County East Kigezi Sub Region amid concerns stemming from the conservative investment approach of the central bank with eyes on overseas financial markets.

Uganda has reserves now amounting to US $32billion but these could be swept away in a blink of an eye following poor investment decisions, warned the director of research.

During the interface, Amos Lugolobi ,a member of the committee and chair of the budget committee of parliament wondered why the central bank was adding to Uganda’s debt burden with such demands even after over 200bn was advanced to the bank in the previous financial year for re-capitalization.

Among the central bank’s expenses include monitory policy infrastructure, increased use of garnish orders, and high costs of currency infrastructure.

The Auditor General’s report 2018 notes that Uganda’s debt to GDP ratio of 41 per cent is still below the International Monetary Fund (IMF) risky threshold of 50 per cent and compares well with other East African countries. However economic analysts challenge that figure stating that the country is already well above the threshold with estimates at 55% which they say is unfavourable compared to national revenue collected which is the highest in the region at 54 percent”.

Concerns have always been about the sustainability of debt, taking in more commercial loans, whose conditionalities are probably not very conducive for Uganda as a developing country.

Meanwhile Parliament has resolved to have a national dialogue with officials from Bank of Uganda and the ministry of finance about the fate of Uganda’s economy more so over the ever increasing national debt as a result of multi-year programs that need constant funding as well as supplementary expenditure.

Bank of Uganda pushes for new regulations, honest customers to get credit without security

By Alice Lubwama

The central bank is coming up with regulations that will require utility companies, landlords, and providers of trade credit including manufactures to report to the credit reference bureau on their customer’s transactions.

Speaking at the financial inclusion symposium in Kampala today the director supervision bank of Uganda Dr Tumubweine Twinemanzi said that the information will be used to create a credit profile for borrowers to enable the trust worthy customers get cash or trade credit without
having collateral.

“Let me give an example when you go to buy a car , the car dealer will ask for your national identification number and every time you make your promised payment on time ,the car dealer will report to the credit bureau and when you’re late they will report the lateness.

He noted that by understanding people’s transaction behaviour, one may not need actual physical collateral to be able to borrow.

Tumubweine adds that once the regulations have been approved by the ministry of finance, they will now organize trainings of various stake holders in the industry including traders, manufacturers, utility companies on how they can provide information to the credit reference bureau who will then create credit profile for their customers and in turn use the information to make credit decision.

The managing director Compuscan group company, one of the credit bureau for consumer data, Mark Mukasa noted that the benefits of the regulations are both positive and negative since it will create positive truck record for the people who access credit in the country but at the same time also have a punishment for defaulters who will not be able to access credit from other lenders if they don’t pay up their credit from formal lenders.

“Property has been at the centre of the requirement for one to access credit for formal lenders, yet very few people own property in Uganda.” Mukasa said

He said that by getting credit information over a period of time, lenders will start growing reputation collateral of individuals, that will be used for one to access credit.

According to the central bank credit reference bureaus supports robust growth of the financial sector through providing timely and accurate information on borrowers debt profile and repayment history.

Man arrested for obtaining money by false pretence

By Sania Babirye

A 32 year old man who said to have been demanding money from Ugandans promising that he would take them abroad for jobs has been charged.

Simon Mulindwa self employed and a resident of Nansana has appeared before a grade one magistrate at City Hall Valerian Tuhimbise and denied the offense of obtaining money by false pretence.

Prosecution states that on September 13th 2018 at Kisaasi in Kampala district, Mulindwa with intent to defraud obtained 1.5million shillings from a one Martin Ssemanda by pretending that he was taking him abroad well as not.

He is to return back to court on June 2nd for commencement of the case.

Civil society advocates for better payments for agriculture extension workers

By Daudi Zirimala
The civil society organization, Share an Opportunity Uganda SAO has implored members of parliament to increase on the budget for Agricultural extension workers to enable them efficiently improve service delivery in the agricultural sector.

Speaking during the dialogue with members of parliament on agriculture committee and stakeholders the National Director of SAO Florence Suubi noted that the civil engagement alliance commends the Uganda government for making a provision to recruit 5000 extension workers country wide within financial year 2019/2020 but since the districts increased to 128, the government will have to recruit 12,000 extension staff to fill the gap.

She says that once the budgetary allocation for extension workers is improved, the productivity of agricultural sector will be empowered in terms mobilizing, capacity building of staff and farmers to bridge the current gap between the Extension workers and farmers in the village model.

However, Nakaseke South legislator Paulsen Luttamaguzi Kasana said that government has no interest in investing money in agriculture but instead in politics since its aim is to cling on power rather than improving the welfare of farmers.

The Uganda’s economy is in intensive care therefore there is o way Members of Parliament can help allocate more money to the agriculture ministry because of too much borrowing for other priority sectors than agriculture says Hon Luttamaguzi

Similarly in the same dialogue organised by SAO,it was noted the ministry of Agriculture animal industry and Fisheries MAAIF is in a process of drafting the national agriculture Extension services Bill intended to come with policy that will guide and improve on the services of the extension workers.

This was revealed by the commissioner for agricultural extension and skills management Dr. Patience Rwamigisa saying that currently the agriculture sector contributes 50% to the national economy but in return its gets only 3% of the national budget which challenges the sector says Rwamugisa.

This bill they would specify the worker of extension workers at district and sub county level as well enabling farmers to engage in agribusiness by prioritizing certain commodities per district.

Rwamigisa has revealed that government has come up with a new model where a district identifies two commodities in which they can specialize in so that the government can invest money in the specified commodities that the district can manage.

Minister Nakiwala warns against giving street kids money

By Moses Kidandi

The Gender labor and social development ministry is in final preparations of amending the children act to criminalize giving of handouts to street children.

The state minister for youth and children Florence Nakiwala Kiyinji said this while officiating at the function to hand over certificates to the newly licensed children’s homes held at the gender ministry today.

Minister Nakiwala at the same occassion warned people against giving money to street children noting this encourages the practice.

A total of 31 children homes were at the function given certificates of operation after meeting the qualifications set by the line ministry.

Minister Kiyingi asked these to recruit only the abandoned children and not getting them from people’s homes as has been the case with some children’s homes that were recently closed.

Mbarara high school head charged with embezzlement

By Sania Babirye

The headmaster of Mbarara High School Benon Charlie Twinomujuni and the school Bursar Michael Namara have been charged with embezzlement before the High Court Anti-corruption division sitting at Kololo in Kampala.

The two men are appeared before Court’s chief magistrate Pamela Lamunu and denied the offense of embezzlement, causing financial loss and abuse of their office.

Prosecution states that Twinomujuni and Namara between January 2017 and February 2018 while performing their duties as Headmaster and Bursar respectively at Mbarara High School in Mbarara district, stole more than r 200 million shillings meant for various activities at School.

Prosecution adds that the duo in the same period at Mbarara High approved and withdrew 207,450,000 million shillings without any supporting documents and accountability, an arbitrary act prejudicial to the interest of their employer.

They have been released both on a cash bail of 10 million shillings each and their five sureties ordered to execute a non-cash bond of 80 million shillings not cash.

The sureties include an Economist with Bank of Uganda as a director petroleum investment fund Paddy Turyamujuka.

They are to return to court on February 18th 2019 to set a hearing date since investigations are in advanced stage according to prosecution.

Asiimwe quizzed over increased number of beneficiaries of Akasiimo project

By Alice Lubwama

The special assistant on veterans affairs for president Museveni Col. Jacob Asiimwe  has had a rough  time before the public accounts committee of parliament when members  quizzed him over the rising
numbers of beneficiaries under the ‘Akasiimo project for people who contributed to liberation war.

The Office of the Prime Minister is supposed to reward civilians who contributed to the liberation war that ushered in NRM government but members were surprised by the  initial number of beneficiaries shot up from  30,000 to 80.000 shillings.

The  beneficiaries   were meant to share 30 billion shillings in the financial year  2014 but the amount was also  increased  to 158 shillings   to be shared  among the 80.000 beneficiaries  during the same year .

MPs including   Mathias Mpuuga Masaka municipality  and the committee chairperson Angeline Osegge tasked   Col Asiimwe to explain the circumstances leading to the rise and when the government was
planning to put   a cap on the list of beneficiaries.

In his response, Asiimwe said that the rise was caused by the need to incorporate other volunteers such as FRONASA and other groups that aided the  military to fight  extremism in the early days of peace.

He has given assurance that after clearing the pending 17,000beneficiaries, the “akasiimo project” will come to an end.

MPs deserve a bigger pay -Hon. Waluswaka

By Edwin Muhumuza

Bunyole West MP, James Waluswaka has refuted media reports that legislators had decided to double their salaries. He however justifies the need for the move ,owing to the fact that MPs at times do engage in several activities ;official and unofficial. The NRM legislator says may be in the next financial year they may increase their salaries.

Usuk County MP Peter Ogwang, who is a Parliamentary Commissioner for Finance and Planning, has insisted the commission had not yet submitted a request for salary increment for MPs.

Chris Obore, the Parliament’s Director for Communication and Public Affairs, says the Parliamentary Commission did not make a request for MPs’ salary enhancement, but admitted the request may have been “introduced at some stage”.

Honourable Waluswaka,remarks that government does not have money to the extent of affording drugs such as Septrin and therefore any increment would be selfish at this time.He has instead accused the opposition of propaganda intended to throw mud at the government in order to incite the public.

Perspective

An MP in Uganda earns a basic salary of Shs 11.18m, which is taxed. However, they also take home a raft of untaxed allowances, which elevates their total pay package above the Shs 20 million-mark.

These include subsistence allowance of Shs 4.5m, town running allowance (Shs 1m), gratuity (Shs 1m), medical allowance (Shs 500,000), committee sitting allowance (Shs 50,000), plenary sitting allowance (150,000), as well as a mileage allowance from Parliament to the furthest point of an individual MP’s constituency.

In East Africa, the Ugandan MP’s take total package is higher than that of a Tanzanian legislator ($7,266) and Rwandan ($1,271). The earnings of Ugandan MPs’ have once again been put in the spotlight by the 10th Parliament to increase the legislators’ one-off car grant allowance by 94 per cent from Shs 103m of their predecessors to Shs 200m.

President’s office distances itself from minister Amongi’s claims about compensation

By Sania Babirye
The troubled Lands Minister Betty Amongi has been disowned by the office of the president in relation to withdrawing huge sums of tax payers money from the land fund  to compensate alleged claimants.
Minister Amongi had claimed that she was   directed  by the president’s  office while she was being grilled by the land probe commission over illegal compensations.
However while appearing before the same commission chaired by justice Catherine Bamugemeire, the principle private secretary to the president Molly Kamukama rather denied the allegations and explained that when petitions concerning land matters reach her office , she usually writes back and  directs the relevant ministry to manage, investigate the complaint and after investigations then writes a report back to the minister.
Kamukama revealed that instead,  minister Amongi undermined the  directives by directly taking it upon herself to withdraw money from the land fund without reporting back to the office of the president or being cleared by the same office as required.
Last week , Minister Betty Amongi told the land probe commission that  she  received several directives from the president to urgently pay- off beneficiaries of  the Uganda Land fund ; whose land has been taken over by government for either settlement or  economic development .
Justice Catherine Bamugemereire has for that matter suggested to Kamukama that the office of the president should not  even wait for the commission’s report and recommendations  but to immediately  deal with such people who steal money from the land fund and deprive off the right beneficiaries.